Sunday, July 18, 2010

Five Books

Brian Lindenmuth from Spinetingler posed a question on Twitter a few days ago and I've been mulling it over without much success. So, I thought maybe if we bounced around ideas here I might be able to nail down my answer.

He wanted to know "if you could give someone any five books to represent what you feel is the best about crime fiction, what would they be?" I'm probably paraphrasing there a little, but that's the gist of the question.

I can say without a doubt that L.A. REQUIEM  would have to be on my list because that book is the reason I read crime fiction: rich characters I connect with, dynamic plots that keep me turning pages, intelligent humor, social commentary without reservation. From there, though, I start waffling. There are books I love but if I included them would I be covering all that I feel is the best about crime fiction? Then there are books that I've recommended to non-crime fiction readers that have been sure bets no matter what. But just because these people like them, does that mean they represent what I think is best about the genre? Should my five be from all different sub-genres or should that not really matter?

Maybe I'm over-analyzing this. So I'm going to throw it to you. What are your thoughts? Don't be shy, tell me what you think. Then next Monday I'll put together my final decision and you can share yours too.


Sandra Ruttan July 18, 2010 at 7:36 PM  

He's harassing me morning, noon and night and I still can't come up with my five picks yet.

le0pard13 July 18, 2010 at 8:10 PM  

That's a hard thing to do to come up with 5 (or just 5). For me, it's a snapshot question. At this one point in time, what would be your 5 books that best depict the genre. I say that because, doesn't it change as one continues to read and the person continues to evolve (or in my case, de-volve)?

You know I'm in complete agreement with L.A. REQUIEM as one of those picks (and would have included it years ago when I first read it, if asked this question then). But, would I have included Winslow's THE POWER OF THE DOG on that list back then? No, because I hadn't read it. Same for THE MYSTIC ARTS OF ERASING ALL SIGNS OF DEATH or PRINT THE LEGEND. So, I say don't sweat it.

What you're really coming up with is a list that really explains it for you in mid-July, 2010. It'll be different, except for LAR, moments or months from now. Just my thoughts. Thanks, Jen.

Brian Lindenmuth July 18, 2010 at 8:15 PM  

I fully admit that it's a ploy to get people to talk about books :)

Allison July 18, 2010 at 8:39 PM  

I can't come up with 5 either. L.A. Requiem...I'll go that. Any Connelly's Harry Bosch. And most by George Pelecanos...but of his I'd say Hard Revolution or Nick's Trip. After's too difficult to answer! SO MANY BOOKS!

pattinase (abbott) July 18, 2010 at 9:33 PM  

A lot depends on whether you're thinking about contemporary crime fiction or all of crime fiction. Also if you're thinking of just North American books or across the globe. I think five is too small a number unless you are thinking only of current writers. I'd be hesitant to include any current books if it meant leaving out Chandler, Cain, Himes, Poe, Holmes, Collins, Hammett, Millar, Tey, Simenon, Highsmith etc.

Pop Culture Nerd July 19, 2010 at 5:25 AM  

I'll take a whack at this but, as le0 said, my list might change in a month or five years.

1) LAR. Duh.
3) CAUGHT STEALING--Charlie Huston
5) AND THEN THERE WERE NONE--Agatha Christie

kathy d. July 19, 2010 at 6:09 AM  

I would find this nearly impossible to do going back to high school in the Middle Ages when I started reading mysteries. And does this include international crime fiction?

Jen Forbus July 19, 2010 at 7:59 AM  

Patti, I think the question is more designed to be about each person's individual reading experiences. So for me, that would exclude a lot of the older writers as I don't have a lot of those under my belt at this point. International writers would all depend, again, on what experiences the reader has with those works. And also I think Brian is trying to get people to think in terms of what can best sum up overall content...not necessarily listing every writer who is great in the genre.

So obviously the answer is going to vary reader to reader, but the challenge is to pick out the five that best highlight. It's a great exercise! It's challenging me, but I'm enjoying thinking about it.

Brian Lindenmuth July 19, 2010 at 8:18 AM  

The question was originally posed on Twitter (before spreading it to other places) so within the character constraints that Twitter imposes I tried wording it in such a way as to be a kind of hybrid question that lies somewhere between “What is the best” and “what are your favorites”. Which isn’t to say that I succeeded just that was the goal. A couple of things, theoretically, can come from the answers. 1) Some recommendations 2) we talk about books!

And I like these kind of open ended questions, without specifics nailed down, because it’s interesting to see what the list says about the person who created it based off of their interpretation of what the question implies (but doesn’t state).

I may even compile all of the answers and post them on Spinetingler.

Judy Bobalik July 19, 2010 at 8:45 AM  

L.A.REQUIEM by Robert Crais

The first three authors on the list are the reason I read crime fiction. The last two are books that stay with you.

Anonymous July 19, 2010 at 2:35 PM  

Okay. I'll limit myself to five which pretty well dragged me into reading crime fiction:

1. The Complete Sherlock Holmes. My first real mystery; my first love!

2. The Three Coffins. John Dickson Carr introduced me to both fair play and locked rooms.

3. And Then There Were None. Christie's best, IMHO.

4. The Doorbell Rang. Rex Stout created my favorite US detective, and this one would convert almost anyone to a Wolfe fan.

5. The Nine Tailors. Still my favorite Sayers, carrying crime fiction into literature.

I can think of lots more, of course, depending on the ultimate goal of any list. But it's personal.

pattinase (abbott) July 19, 2010 at 2:43 PM  

Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey
When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, Lawrence Block
Roseanna, Maj Sjowal and Per Wahloo
The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

kathy d. July 19, 2010 at 7:24 PM  

Wow! Everyone is digging deep into their reading experiences. I can't remember a lot of what I've read over decades.

However, am so glad that S.J. Rozan's "Winter and Night" was mentioned. That was a great book.

Michael Kelberer July 24, 2010 at 12:43 PM  

I'll disagree with two Christie fans and say the The Death of Roger Ackoryd is her best - not only is it the "tightest" novel - nary a clue left unexplained - but she pulls off the ultimate feat - having the narrator be the killer while playing it fair with the reader

MysterLynch July 24, 2010 at 8:21 PM  

There are two ways to answer this:
To offer up what I think best encompases the genre, or what I think are the best five.

The Maltese Falcon
L.A. Requiem
The Alienist
Winter and Night
The Dawn Patrol

These are the books that just thinking about them makes me want to run to my library to reread them.

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